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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tulane Dean Apologizes for Errors in Law Review Article Claiming Donor Influence on Louisiana Supreme Court

Tulane law school dean Lawrence Ponoroff has written an extraordinary letter of apology to the Louisiana Supreme Court Justices over an article published in its law review:  Vernon Valentine Palmer (Tulane) & John Levendis (Loyola-New Orleans), The Louisiana Supreme Court in Question: An Empirical and Statistical Study of the Effects of Campaign Money on the Judicial Function, 82 Tul. L. Rev. 1291 (2008).  Eugene Volokh notes that the article

purported to compare Louisiana Supreme Court Justices' voting records with the campaign contributions to them from litigants and lawyers; the article asserted that "some of the justices have been significantly influenced — wittingly or unwittingly — by the campaign contributions they have received from litigants and lawyers appearing before these justices."

Now it turns out that there many of the cases were miscoded — a rebuttal asserts that "in forty of the 186 opinions included in the study, the information about the case on which Palmer and Levendis based their conclusions is just plain wrong, such as how a Justice voted or even if the Justice was on the panel that decided the case."

The authors acknowledge that there were errors; one of the authors asserted that "with all the mistakes now corrected, ... the study's conclusions, broadly speaking, are the same, but the revised study and the revised dataset has not yet been publicly distributed." Moreover, even if the data were correct, the article would still be drawing what strikes me as an unsupported inference from correlation to causation.

Press and blogosphere coverage:

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2008/09/tulane-dean-apo.html

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Comments

Thanks for the news. I personally feel that the Law Review article was a little inflated.

Posted by: MTax | Sep 23, 2008 8:17:12 AM

I have been listening to the lamentations and frustrations of two years of law review minions from two different universities. It appears that submitted law review articles are severely lacking. It appears that articles lack not only basic grammar, but also lacks substance (i.e. a cogent argument, relevant facts, accurate facts, etc.). Law review articles have been described as over glorified undergraduate social science papers. I tend to agree and keep finding examples of weak and lazy scholarship, such as this story. It's disturbing to me that the pool of competent lawyers is so shallow.

Posted by: Thomas B. | Sep 23, 2008 9:01:09 AM